Tina Wong is a hospital administrator by day, and a food-and-travel photographer-blogger by night. This New Yorker finds a way to feed her soul–and her work-a-day self–by exploring her creative side. We asked Tina to be our first profile for Second Chance Travels. Be sure to follow Tina’s website and social media channels. You can find her at The Wandering Eater and on Instagram at @wanderingeater .
SCT: Tell us a bit about yourself.
TW: I’m a native New Yorker – born and raised in Queens. Oddly enough, I never lived anywhere else – even for college! (I stayed in New York City.) I guess that started the travel bug besides reading novels and various literature that inspired me.
I come from a family who believes in hard work and education. Despite the fact I look like I know what I’m doing with my life at the moment, I changed my college major about three times until I stuck with Legal Studies. Since law school didn’t work out for me, my first full-time job was in an office at a major research hospital in Manhattan. After two years, I thought it was time to pursue a Masters in Public Health. I now work at a different hospital enterprise, primarily managing policies.
I started my food blog during my sophomore year in college (circa 2004 or 2005) – at the time when blogs were considered a low brow form of journalism at best. I started the blog because my friends wanted me to stop talking about my various “discoveries” on my weekly eating out excursions (on a college student budget). Several years ago, I expanded into writing about traveling since I could afford to travel outside of city bounds.
SCT: You’re a hospital administrator by day, and a photographer and traveler by nights and weekends. Those seem to be an analytical field and a more creative field. How did that come about? Where are the crossovers between them?
TW: My day job comes from my educational background. The photography and traveling is from my creative passions and my childhood. I am fortunate to have parents who were able to take the entire family to trips around major cities in the U.S. and to Hong Kong and China.
I think my day job and photography have some crossovers in terms of needing a certain level of seriousness to complete a task or to execute a photo shoot as perfect as possible. But, they are the yin and yang to balance my life. Traveling fuels my soul and expands my mind of the world.
SCT: Have you always wanted to be a journalist?
TW: I never thought I would be a journalist. A doctor, sure, because of my parents. I enjoyed learning about biology, but the realm of journalism was not something I considered seriously on a conscious level at all. I wrote because I felt the need.
SCT: Do you ever see yourself focusing solely on the Wandering Eater?
TW: I have met many people who are courageous enough to have their websites/blogs as their primary job and are successful – but I don’t have the guts to do it.
SCT: How did you learn to shoot?
TW: For a long time, I am a slightly artistic person. My artistic side really peaked my senior year of high school, when I was deeply gratified taking elective classes in still life drawing and fashion illustration. My dad taught me the basics of photography around that time and I’ve experimented with style and composition over the years.
SCT: Let’s talk style….your images, your journalistic work, and your personal style all show a high level of sophistication. Where did that come from? How do you stay on top of trends?
TW: My overall style is a mix of my background, family, and what I read and sense about the world. I go to museums and art galleries to see what’s buzzing at the moment, and it may inspire me. I’m a loyal reader to the New York Times, New Yorker magazine, various fashion magazines, and even Reddit. The latter is to be aware what’s happening on the Internet world. Twitter, Instagram, and Travel + Leisure are some of the other sources I follow to stay on top of trends.
SCT: You are also an amazing cook, able to create sophisticated dishes on your own. Where did you learn this? Do you ever consider working as a chef or running a restaurant?
TW: My parents are avid cooks. They taught me basic cooking techniques and knife skills and traditional Chinese dishes. They cooked dinner almost every night when I was growing up because they like the fact they know what’s in the food and it generally tastes better. They don’t always cook everything from scratch. There were nights when we had frozen food meals or pizza because they were too tired to cook.
I had a terrible sweet tooth growing up. My parents did not bake at all. To keep up with my cravings combined with my curiosity of how to bake something (and I was slightly discouraged to find out what’s in my favorite packaged cookies), my parents let me take over the kitchen when I was ten years old. Some of my several first creations were mediocre at best.
All of what I know about the various food cultures and recipes are from reading cookbooks from beloved and trusted authors (such as Dorie Greenspan, Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and others) and of course, my parents when it comes to Chinese food.
I have many friends and co-workers who have asked me if I wanted to have my own bakery, but I don’t think I could do it; the costs of rent, equipment, and the headaches of what I’ve heard from various restauranteurs I’ve met over the years deter me a little bit. I also don’t need a third job.
SCT: How do you stay sane with two full time jobs? What do you do for down-time? And how do you stay so fit?
TW: It definitely helps to have my family to keep me grounded and my mom is my rock.
For my free time, I try to spend some time with my family, friends, and my boyfriend. If I feel like being a hermit, I watch Netflix and catch up on cult TV series and classic movies.
I try to work out in some way at least every other day. During the weeknights, I do a form of the popular seven-minute workout, and during the weekend, I try to run a couple of miles on the treadmill or outside, if the weather is nice. I have to work out since I eat out so often.
SCT: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
TW: I hope to settle down (a little) and have a family. Possibly still work in the medical field. Still have the travel bug and documenting it in some way. But everything else is uncertain.
SCT: What advice would you offer someone who wants to develop their more creative side while working in what appears to be a less creative field?
TW: I am sure many people who claim they don’t have creative interests actually are participating it in almost everyday life (such as photographing with a smartphone). I’d suggest women to find and try what interests you (draw, paint, dance, sing, etc.). You certainly don’t have to be great at it, but the whole point is you enjoy this creative activity.